HAMMOND (AP) - A Baptist minister whose church has been linked with
instances of child abuse by clergy says he no longer can hug young members of
his congregation in public because it will be used against him.
The Rev. Jack Hyles wept Sunday in church as he asked children to refrain
from hugging him because the action had been taken out of context by a Detroit
"Our enemies got a copy of our video and have pulled a section out for
telecast that shows me hugging a little girl at the bottom of the step," Hyles
told the congregation at First Baptist Church.
"They've pulled it out for telecast as proof that we prey on children and
are a place that sends out child molesters.
"Because of that, I'm going to have to ask the children to shake my hand.
I'm sorry about that. I really am."
WJBK-TV in Detroit has reported that Hyles, who pastors one of the largest
fundamentalist Baptist churches in the nation, is linked to several clergy
across the country implicated in child molesting cases. Michigan State Police
allege two former Hammond church members molested children of an Ann Arbor,
Mich., Baptist church during a Bible retreat here last summer. The charges
against one of the two were dismissed because the victims were too young to
Hammond police also recently began an investigation into First Baptist after
deacon A.V. Ballenger was convicted by a Lake Superior Court jury of fondling a
9-year-old girl during Sunday school in 1991. The probe was called off Friday
after Baptist congregations and pastors across the nation blitzed the media
During Sunday's service, Hyles told the applauding congregation that WJBK's
news anchorman had been fired and 12 sponsors had dropped the evening news
because of its investigative series.
However, Mort Meisner, news director for WJBK, said neither of those
statements were true.
"There's Mr. Hyles again trying to manipulate his congregation as he has
done so successfully during the years he's been doing this, and it's just
false," said Meisner. "Here's a case that when the facts burn you, you try to
manipulate and save as much grace as you can.
"I understand he has a large following, so I'll go one step further. I think
Mr. Hyles has probably saved the lives of a lot of people, because people need
something to believe in. And I think he's helped a lot of people, but
conversely, I think he's also hurt a lot of people," Meisner said.